30 August 2005

Pocket EyeTV for DTT - an apology

First things first, an apology is in order. My brief (first impressions) review of the Pocket EyeTV device turns out to be next-to-useless. Perhaps I should refrain from a first impressions review in the future? (My Nokia 6680 review on the other hand is still pretty fair).

I have now got 3 different problems with the EyeTV device in my configuration. And, while I was initially happy with the responsiveness of the support people, that seems to have dried up when you send a second email in on the incident which demonstrates you've already done the obvious things.

Problem 1 was observed when watching sports. Cricket and football seemed strange. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. But then I stored a few frames using the screenshot feature built into Mac OS X. I noticed that there were often 2 images of player and/or ball in the same frame. Despite trying different eyetv preferences and different screen settings and frequencies, I could not eliminate these problems. It might be solely due to the use of an external plasma display via DVI or VGA but it is extremely annoying, and despite sharpness/colour advantages makes watching such events a problem.

Problem 2 comes usually after a few days of typical use (which for me involve leaving the computer on sleep much of the time). After a while, the live TV window no longer picks up a signal. It sometimes gets hung only on the higher number channels or even specific signals, but then degenerates into a complete inability to receive any channel. Rebooting the computer does NOT fix this. Only unplugging/replugging the device in the USB port fixes it. That indicates a firmware problem with the device - only in this situation is firmware reloaded, as during restart power is still provided by USB. I have seen this exact problem reported elsewhere. This means the device cannot be relied upon to record shows unattended (a prime reason for having this device). I don't know the exact circumstances as to why it goes into this mode - I suspect its something to do with sleep and/or restarting the application rather than leaving it permanently on.

Problem 3 also happens intermittently. When watching a recording, I note a lot of stuttering frames or brief (up to 1/2 sec) pauses. These pauses happen in the same places indicating the problem took place on the recording, rather than during playback. I have been keen to keep other applications off when running the EyeTV software. So, it should easily be able to keep up. Yet, even after a system restart, memory use seems much higher than on my powerbook (both 512MB RAM). Whether this is the EyeTV app or something else I don't know. My suspicion is however that the stuttering recordings are created when the machine decides to do a lot of memory swapping. Some recordings don't exhibit this. My suspicion is that these are recordings made soon after a restart, and that over time, the machine becomes increasingly incapable of making a smooth recording.

All of these problems mean that the device is not achieving what I had hoped for - a replacement of my Pace PVR. I will have to consider a return which will be a hugely disappointing blow in my quest to build a reasonable HT/media centre setup.


macfishnchips said...

Did you have a problem with black bars on the top and bottom of 16:9 content through your DVI connector on your plasma? Basically my Mac Mini with the EyeTV DTT is displaying at 1024x768 on my plasma but the EyeTV software thinks the screen is square so is adding black bars on the widescreen content and not on the 4:3 content... Really annoying (although I'm yet to see any of the issues you did).

Ian Hobson said...

HI macfishnchips
No, I don't have a problem with this, but I think I understand what you're saying. Ideally you want your resolution to be in the right aspect ratio to start with. That is probably something like 1280 x 720 or 1366 x 768. As far as I know you can't easily do that without using a little utility called DisplayconfigX (less than £10). You can then configure your resolution pretty much exactly how you want (I am set to 1232 x 690 due to overscan). That is very visible from 10' away for anything (web pages, iTunes etc). Then in full screen mode, widescreen content is displayed perfectly. This also then works really well for most DVD's

I'd be happy to communicate more directly on this topic, as I may also have a lot to learn from you too!
Elgato have told me about a new software update, but I'm fascinated that you don't have ANY of my problems. Let me know if you'd like to do this, and I'll find a way to point you to an email address.

Thanks for tuning in!

Unknown said...

I know, it is a little bit late but I have the same problems still with my device... So nothing happened at ElGato the last year? I should have read your blog first....

Anonymous said...

" After a while, the live TV window no longer picks up a signal."

YES! this exact thing is happening to me at the moment (I bought the USB plug-in eyetv DTT last a couple of days ago) but the "after a while" is pretty much three minutes. I'm not sure if it's because the usb device is overheating (it's very hot to the touch when I do the unplug/quit/replug thing) or becasue the device is faulty or what. Very disappointed.

Ian Hobson said...

Hi anonymous

To be honest, that sounds like a problem with the unit. Alternatively, you might want to check whether you have the latest software. Since going to v2 (which I had to pay for), I've had less problems with this aspect*.

* unfortunately, I have a love-hate relationship with this product. It has transformed my car journeys by allowing me to convert Radio 4 shows into podcasts, and is generally good for tv watching. But I've had updates which completely destroyed digital sound output. And, when fixes come in they make something else unusable (such as editing). A little bit better quality control would make a HUGE difference to this product.